Literacy with an Attitude

Educating Working-Class Children in Their Own Self-Interest

By Patrick J. Finn

Subjects: Social Context Of Education
Paperback : 9780791442869, 258 pages, August 1999
Hardcover : 9780791442852, 258 pages, September 1999

Table of contents


1. Title, Author, and Hard-Bitten Schoolteachers

2. A Distinctively Un-American Idea: An Education Appropriate to Their Station

3. Harsh Schools, Big Boys, and the Progressive Solution

4. Oppositional Identity: Identifying "Us" As "Not Them"

5. The Lads

6. Changing Conditions—Entrenched Schools

7. Class, Control, Language, and Literacy

8. Where Literacy "Emerges"

9. Where Children Are Taught to Sit Still and Listen

10. The Last Straw: There's Literacy, and Then There's Literacy

11. Literacy with an Attitude

12. Not Quite Making Literacy Dangerous Again

13. Making Literacy Dangerous Again

14. Taking Sides

15. Mad As Hell, and Not Going to Take It Any More




A passionate plea for teachers, parents, and community organizers to give working-class children the same type of empowering education and powerful literacy skills that the children of upper- and middle-class people receive. Strategies for reaching and teaching these children are presented.


Honorable Mention, 2000 Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Awards

This book is for teachers, parents, and community organizers who are on the side of working-class children. It's about the resistance of working class children to the kind of education they typically receive, education designed to make them useful workers and obedient citizens. It's about working-class habits of communication and ways of using language that interfere with schooling. It's about a new brand of teachers, followers of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire who are developing effective methods for teaching powerful literacy in American working-class classrooms. It's about teacher networks where teachers devoted to equity and justice find mutual support. And it's about community organizers who are bringing working-class parents together around education issues and helping them mount effective demands for powerful literacy for their children.

Patrick J. Finn is Associate Professor in the Department of Learning and Instruction at State University of New York at Buffalo. His previous books include Helping Children Learn to Read; Helping Children Learn to Read, Second Edition; and Helping Children Learn Language Arts.


"Finn's writing is so personal, passionate, urgent, and he was speaking, not writing, it seemed, directly to me … I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is concerned about the failure of schools to educate all our citizens into a powerful democratic discourse. " — John M. Watkins, Anthropology and Education Quarterly

"Finn's approach is creative and effective … [The book] is … very important and deserves to be read by teachers … by parents, and by concerned citizens. " — LACMF, Literacy Across the Curriculumedia Focus

"This book makes the reader think. It presents a clear account of the history of literacy which on the surface is familiar; however, the author's ability to define, compare, and contrast empowering education/powerful literacy reframes issues and challenges all complacency. His argument for teaching literacy with an attitude is compelling. It demands evaluation of the status quo and commitment to rethinking schools, literacy definitions, and instructional procedures for children as well as training for preservice and inservice teachers. It suggests productive areas of research that could contribute further understanding of the issues. And, it makes a reader think: What if?" — Mary Anne Doyle, University of Connecticut